Reviewing Double Fine’s Trenched actually gave me trench foot! Okay, maybe I didn’t actually get trench-foot (which is nothing to joke about), but I did have such an amazing time playing Trenched that I didn’t move away from the television for days on end. If my feet had in fact been soaking in disease infested waters, I for sure WOULD have gotten trench foot, or as I lovingly refer to it as “The Foot“.
On occasion a game will come out that sort of slips through my radar. Trenched was almost that game. I first saw Trenched during this year’s PAX: East where it was literally surrounded by dozens of other games filled with large explosions and machine gun fire (we gamers REALLY love machine guns don’t we?). While I thought the game looked “cool”, I had no idea how special and unique it really was.
The History: The game takes place in an alternate-reality version of the 1940s. During the The Great War (WWI), two radio operators intercept an “alien” transmission that gifts them both with superhuman intelligence (there is a bit of a M.O.D.O.K twist at the end I won’t totally spoil). Frank uses his new found smarts to create mobile walking behemoths (called ‘Trenches’ after WWI trench warfare). The other, Vladamir Farnsworth, loses his marbles and creates “The Tubes”, a group of electric monsters that he unleashes to destroy the world. Vladamir is almost successful until Frank decides to create the mobile trench brigade to stop him. You play as a Marine piloting your own Trench in an attempt to stop the tubes and end the threat.
Gameplay: Simple yet Complex: As its core Trenched is a tower defense game, meaning that the bulk of the missions consist of your Trench defending a particular objective from Tube invasion. Unlike other tower defense games, Trenched also allows you to control your Trench manually and functions as a incredibly well done 3rd person shooter. Yep, this means that you’ll be manning the controls of your very own customized mechanical monstrosity. The true joy of Trenched lies in not just blowing shit up (which is glorious), but in the wide variety of ways the game can be played. If you’re a master strategist you can load up a small (engineering) Trench with a variety of emplacements (turrets) and try and hold down the fort with a minimal personal armament. If you’re a “guns blazing” type of guy/gal you can load up one of the larger Trenches and take the Tubes head on with a staggering amount of machine guns, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, etc.
If You Build It.. They Will Die: While you start out with only a handful of weapons, emplacements, and chassis as your disposal, you’ll be piloting your own personal ED-209 in no time. As you progress through the campaign (more on that later) you’ll pick up loot boxes that contain a wide variety of weapons and items. Much like Borderlands, Trenched uses the World of Warcraft color-coded loot system that is familiar to tens of millions and requires no further explanation. The variety of items is incredibly impressive, and named weapons like “The Razor of The Gods” will slowly turn your Trench into something unique and terrifying. Even after beating the game and replaying old maps I keep discovering new guns and pilot items (yes you can dress you pilot anyway that you’d like).
“The presentation alone is glorious and you’ll be able to spend your time on deck looking at your friend’s Trench designs as they’re raised via-elevator from below deck. It is quite possibly the best inter-mission staging area of all time. Beautiful again in its simplicity.”
Campaign: Right now there is a certain negative mentality that goes along with X-box Live Arcade Games. It’s almost as if the general gaming population cannot believe that a game that costs less than a retail game (and is made my an indi-studio) can be anything but crap. Trenched is the game that WILL shatter your impressions of XBL arcade games as you WILL get your $15.00 worth, and then some. The Campaign is longer than a lot of those $60.00 shooters ( COD, MOH, Homefront..etc) and clocks in around seven or eight hours. Once the campaign is complete you’re free to return to your aircraft carrier and to retry previous missions for fun, experience, or for more glorious loot! Achievements exist for completing all missions with a silver medal, as well as gold (which is not easy). If you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself revisiting old missions with new trench-loadouts just to play around and try something new… oh, and the loot too.
Multiplayer – While the number of enemies, and difficulty, does indeed scale with the number of players, I found the game to be much easier with a partner or an entire group. Being able to talk about your loadout prior to battle and plan your strategy works wonders in a game like this. If your friends are anything like mine they’ll be happy to play a supportive role for a round our two and specialize their trench for something specific like anti-air if they have to. Heck, you can play as an engineer and do nothing but collect scrap (building materials) for the group if you’d like. You’ll spend your time between missions on the deck of a mechanized-aircraft carrier named ‘The McKinley’. The presentation alone is glorious and you’ll be able to spend your time on deck looking at your friend’s Trench designs as they’re raised via-elevator from below deck. It is quite possibly the best inter-mission staging area of all time. Beautiful again in its simplicity.
Buy This Game: Trenched is an absolute blast to play both alone and with friend. With challenging yet accessible achievements you’ll find yourself hopping back into your Trench long after you’ve completed the campaign. My only wishes are ones made of greed; more maps, more modes, more customization, and more pretty explosions! Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a copy of Trenched, it’s available for download now on X-box live for $15.00.